“[A] test has been done by Mel Gray, who teaches economics at the University of St. Thomas, and the results cast doubt on the idea that a flourishing artistic environment will cause economic growth….
“Gray told me, ‘I spent a sabbatical in North Carolina, and both Raleigh and Durham have established these Offices of Creativity, and they’re all doing this without a huge amount [of], if any, evidence that it makes that big a difference.’ ”
— From “The Fall of the Creative Class” by Frank Bures in Thirty Two Magazine
“[‘Laugh-In’ guest] Sammy Davis Jr., decked out in an oversized judicial wig and robe, introduced a courtroom sketch by strutting across the stage on his Cuban heels, waving his arms and chanting, ‘Here come de judge! Here come de judge! Here come de judge!’ — a line popularized by [Durham-born] black comedian Dewey ‘Pigmeat’ Markham….
” ‘Here come de judge!’ not only achieved a nationwide circulation exceeding Markham’s wildest dreams, but also earned a niche in the glossary of show-biz phraseology….
“Markham had spent decades on the vaudeville ‘Chitlin Circuit’ along with such greats as Moms Mabley and Mantan Moreland, occasionally heading downtown to perform before an integrated audience at Minsky’s Burlesque…. Only in the 1960s did he start showing up with any frequency on ‘mainstream’ television, and only during a one-year ‘Laugh-In’ gig did he ever appear as a TV-series regular.”
— From “From Beautiful Downtown Burbank: A Critical History of ‘Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In,’ 1968-1973″ by Hal Erickson (2000)
A second “Laugh-In” catchphrase, “Look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls,” also originated with Markham. He died in 1981 at age 77.
“We had played a big dance in a tobacco warehouse, and afterwards a friend of mine, an executive in the North Carolina Mutual Insurance Company [treasurer Edward Merrick], threw a party for us [at the N.C. Mutual Building in Durham].
“I was playing piano when another one of our friends had some trouble with two chicks. To pacify them, I composed this there and then, with one chick standing on each side of the piano.”
— Duke Ellington, as quoted by Stanley Dance in his liner notes to “The Ellington Era, 1927-1940, Vol. 2″
According to jazzstandards.com, ” ‘In a Sentimental Mood’ enjoyed a wave of popularity in the 1930s…. [It] was the theme song for no less than nine radio shows.”
Pictured: celluloid watch fob with image of N.C. Mutual Building.
On this day in 1928: At the request of American Legion officials, Durham police remove a Ku Klux Klan float from line in the annual Armistice Day parade. The float bears the letters “KKK” and two white-draped figures representing “Purity” and “Honesty.”
“Since our post is composed of men of all classes and all religious faiths ” a Legion official tells the Durham Morning Herald, “participation by the Klan in our parade would throw the entire picture out of harmony.”
“Roger’s long torturous season [1961, in which he hit a record 61 homers] was over…He had committed to a traveling, postseason home-run-derby exhibition that also featured Harmon Killebrew and Jim Gentile…. He had a miserable experience. Again, the press was at the heart of his problems. Gentile recalls:
” ‘We went to Wilson, Raleigh-Durham, Greensboro and a couple of other places…. After spending a whole season being given a hard time by hostile reporters in New York, having a bunch of new writers on his back was tough for him. He told them, “If I had known that you were going to ask me the same old questions, I would have brought a tape with me.”
” ‘In Wilson we had a real nice crowd, but then what Roger said wound up in the papers and it cut us down a little. They didn’t write anything nice about us after that ….
” ‘Poor Roger couldn’t go anywhere. He’d step out of the hotel and people were chasing him… I thought of Roger when I saw what happened to the Beatles.’ ”
— From “Roger Maris: Baseball’s Reluctant Hero” by Tom Clavin and Danny Peary (2010)
Maris died in 1985. Killebrew, whose only minor league experience came with the Charlotte Hornets in 1956, died last week. Gentile, 76, lives in Edmond, Okla.
— “Ruth’s hit carried at least 600 feet… certainly a record that will stand for all time in Winston-Salem.”
— Amnesia? A faked death? Or what?
— “A preservationist by nature” from Durham blows his Maine chance.
— Scavenged from Monitor repair job — and turned into a doll cradle!
— So what comes after ZZZ?
Unsettling news indeed: The “well-being” of North Carolinians reportedly ranks 36th in the nation. Gallup’s composite index weighs 20 factors, such as stress, obesity, job satisfaction, nighttime safety, happiness…. Happiness? Tar Heels come up short in happiness?
Why, it hasn’t been that long ago — the ’70s, actually — that John Shelton Reed was explaining why no less than 90 percent of North Carolinians considered their state “the best, all things considered.” In sum: nice neighbors, nice weather. (Among the dozen other states studied, Massachusetts came in last at 40 percent.)
Mt. Airy native Donna Fargo even claimed the title of “Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A.”
So what happened? In the intervening four decades, have newcomers from Massachusetts been stealthily U-Hauling their gloom and naysaying past the interstate welcome centers? Or are 21st century North Carolinians simply unhappy, for whatever reason, in a state they may still consider the best?
Gallup asked, “Did you experience feelings of happiness during a lot of the day yesterday?” For reasons I’m sure make sense in the opinion-harvesting community, the results are presented by congressional district. Thus, North Carolina’s happiest districts are Four (Durham, Chapel Hill) and Nine (Charlotte region minus Charlotte), both at 90 percent “yes.” Its unhappiest district: Seven (Wilmington, part of Fayetteville) at 84 percent.
Finally, this caught my eye: In response to “Are you satisfied with the city or area where you live?” the 94 percent yes in North Carolina’s District Four was topped only by the 95 percent yes in California’s District 48.
Curse you, Laguna Beach.
— A visceral provenance indeed: The staircase where Harriet Jacobs was beaten.
— The hoopla for “The King’s Speech” gives cause (were any needed) to look back at the insightful and unblinking work of Durham’s Barry Yeoman, e.g., “They Called him B-Biden” and “Why My Stutter Makes me a Better Reporter” and “Wrestling with Words.”
— From the farthest front, 77 accounts by North Carolinians at Gettysburg.
— Jock Lauterer’s latest A Thousand Words selection, from Dorothea Lange, depicts 74-year-old Caroline Atwater in the doorway of her Orange County log home on July 1, 1939.
Just wondering: Might she be kin to Anthony “Shine” Atwater of “Reet and Shine,” the inexplicably uncelebrated dual biography by Michael Schwalbe? (Ranking one-two worldwide in frequency of the Atwater surname: Chapel Hill and Durham.)
— ” ‘Hush puppies don’t have sugar in them,’ she stated categorically.”
“In a kind of parting shot… as whites fled, those highways [to suburbia] were often routed specifically through African American neighborhoods….
“In Durham, for example, [N.C.] Route 147 was built to help connect the downtown manufacturing and business center with land being developed and sold almost exclusively to whites in suburbs north of the city. That highway… displaced Durham’s main African American business district, so well known for its cultural vitality and economic success that it was called the Harlem of the South in the years when Harlem was its most vibrant.”
— From “Carjacked: The Culture of the Automobile and Its Effect on Our Lives” by Catherine Lutz and Anne Lutz Fernandez (2010)